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Background: Community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) is a common illness that can lead to mortality. Chest radiographs are the gold standard method of confirmation of pneumonia but could unnecessarily expose patients to radiation. Heckerling’s criteria (HC) scoring is a useful substitute for chest radiographs and can be used to rule out CAP. HC score ≥ 4 is strongly indicative of pneumonia, while ≤ 1 indicates the patient is pneumonia-free. HC scoring is well validated in Western populations, but has not been validated in an Asian population. Racial differences in symptoms and differences in the method of measuring body temperature might affect the validity of HC scoring in this population. We evaluate the use of HC scoring in a Japanese primary care setting.
Methods: We conducted a prospective observational study of patients aged ≥ 16 years who had fever and respiratory symptoms in one of two community hospitals between December 2016 and October 2018. We evaluated the accuracy of HC in discrimination of patients with and without CAP.
Pneumonia was defined as when patients suffered from respiratory symptoms and had new infiltration recognized on chest X-ray or chest computed tomography.
Results: Analyzable data from 296 of 341 patients was available (37.2% were female, mean age: 41.1 years). CAP was diagnosed in 58 patients (19.6%). HC discriminated CAP with ROC area of 0.69 (95% CI 0.62-0.76). Sensitivity was 0.66 (95% CI 0.52-0.78) (HC score ≤ 1) and specificity was 0.68 (95% CI 0.61-0.74) (HC score >1).
Conclusions: HC failed to detect CAP in approximately 30% of our Japanese cases presenting acute respiratory illness. HC scoring should be used cautiously in non-Western populations.